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Mira Nair Visits F&M as Mueller Fellow
Filmmaker Mira Nair, left, with her nephew, Sahil Nair ’10 during her visit to campus as the 2010 Mueller Fellow.
Acclaimed film director Mira Nair visited Franklin & Marshall this week as the 2010 Mueller Fellow, giving members of the campus community a glimpse into the world of filmmaking through the eyes of one of its most distinguished figures. Her three-day visit to the College included the Mueller Fellowship Lecture, meetings with students and today’s campus-wide Common Hour discussion.
However, one person on campus was excited for a different reason—his aunt was coming to town. Nair’s nephew, Sahil Nair ’10, is a business, organizations & society major and Italian minor at the College, and this week marked his aunt’s first trip to Lancaster.
Mira Nair has experienced success as a director, writer and producer over the past two-plus decades. Her debut feature, Salaam Bombay!, won 27 international awards and was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for best foreign language film in 1988. She never anticipated the high praise her work would receive, nor did she have time to think about the possibility. “During filming, there was never a question of thinking beyond the next day,” she says.
More than a dozen films later, Nair continues to direct and produce critically acclaimed work, including Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake and Amelia. “Each film requires that you think of what the story demands,” she says. “Monsoon Wedding was always conceived as a hand-held camera, as if you were there, like a fly on the wall. The Namesake was conceived as a series of still photographs, and the camera was hardly ever hand-held.”
On the set, Nair and her team practice yoga on a regular basis to strengthen their bodies and cope with the stresses of the job. The director has practiced the art seriously since 1996, and says it has been an anchor in her life.
“We’ve practiced yoga in churches, bars, delis, conference rooms and rooftops,” she says. “It’s an egoless way to work—people have to leave their tantrums at the door. It’s a strong part of my work.”
Nair’s current work includes the development of Monsoon Wedding as a musical, which is planned for an opening on Broadway next year. She is also working on her next film, an adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
But this week, Nair gets to spend time with her nephew, Sahil, who has enjoyed his four years at F&M. He says the liberal arts environment was the perfect fit for a student coming from India.
“In India, much of college is about memorizing for an exam,” says Sahil, who first discussed a possible visit by his aunt with Dirk Eitzen, associate professor of film and media studies. “At F&M, there is more application of what you’ve learned. You learn things in new ways, and approach problems differently.”
As for approaching a career in directing, Mira Nair provides advice for film students from the top of the profession.
“Arm yourself with craft, discipline and rigor, never take no for an answer and make films about what turns you on.”